While studying at Seattle University School of Law, Miguel Willis noticed inefficiencies in the way students bought and sold casebooks. He had an idea for a mobile-hosted marketplace and decided to pitch it at an Up Global Legal Startup Weekend, where he teamed up with Allan Yueng and Joshua Frailey to work on the idea.
Just like that, CaseBooker was born.
“We were able to get 3rd place at the Startup Weekend,” Willis said. “But most importantly, we formed an amazing team, and got people around us excited about the idea.”
CaseBooker allows law students to list their old casebooks for sale, purchase books using a secure mobile app, and chat to set up an in-person exchange. The idea is to avoid shipping fees and create a community among students.
“We hope one day it could expand into other professional school settings, and eventually one day in all undergraduate campuses across the country,” Willis said.
Here’s more from Willis in our latest installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “Mobile textbook exchange app for law students.”
Inspiration hit us when: “I was unable get a casebook for my civil procedure course at the law school’s bookstore because it was sold out. After frantically looking on Amazon to find the casebook before my first semester started in a week, I was able to find the book I was looking for, purchased it, and received confirmation.
However, one day later I received an email stating that the book was out of stock. Almost out of options, I then turned to the student body at Seattle University Law, and luckily was pointed to an alumnus that had a copy of the book. Then it hit me: ‘What if there was an app available to allow students to exchange books on their campus?'”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrapped. Our main focus right now is to develop our first real customer.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “I am my own customer! Because I am a law student, I’m able to personally understand the problems and frustrations of buying textbooks. I’m also able to get quick customer feedback from other law students, which has allowed our team to make quick iterations and pivots in reaching our MVP.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Staying aligned with our vision and allowing our customers — not our team — to make any changes while reaching the MVP.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Thinking that we could build a business as a Startup Weekend hangover pet project. After committing more time to CaseBooker, being more responsive to our team members, and taking our whole approach more seriously, we’ve noticed much quicker growth and buzz of the app.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “All three are definitely inspiring to me but Bezos is the man! Amazon continuously has the ability to raise my eyebrow at how quickly they push out new products that customers actually want.”
Our world domination strategy starts when: “We market at law student conferences, plus have campus reps at each law school to push the app.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We know our customers better than you.”
We are truly unique because: “Casebooker is also built on the idea of community. Buying and selling casebooks within your law school builds relationships among students that go beyond a simple transaction. Supplementing your casebook with study aids and outlines is as easy the click of a button.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “Being more adaptable to our customers likes and dislikes about the app and prioritizing our iterations.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Never lose sight of your vision. You will always have to make the necessary pivots, but keep a clear and concise picture of the overall vision of your business.”